US: adopt rail transportation

Trains have inspired some of the finest music in the world.

The illustrious bard Jaquandor gripes:

What IS it with this country’s refusal to adopt rail as a serious method of transportation?

There’s a sign, less than two blocks from my house, that commemorates the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad that ran between Albany and Schenectady, one of the first in the nation. It’s clear that the transcontinental railroad created cohesion for the United States.

I’ve made it quite clear that I find passenger rail travel to be the only really civilized form of transportation. So why doesn’t the US embrace it more?

1) Freedom. The freedom of the open road, the myth sold by the car dealers decades ago, and now a part of the fabric of the self-definition of the country. EUROPEANS use trains and the metric system and socialized medicine, but that’s not what WE do. And it IS a big country.

2) Liberals. Most of the greatest concentration of potential train use, because of population patterns, is in the Northeast corridor from Boston to DC, and California. And do you know who lives there? LIBERALS, those arrogant prigs who fuss about energy conservation and don’t REALLY share American values. So screw ’em. We have the fix for the problems of some of the recent rail crashes, but we’re not going to spend money for THAT.

OK, that was exaggerated, but only slightly. There are also pockets of density in the eastern Midwest, and in parts of Texas suitable for rail transportation. Still, fixing the rails, usually shared by freight, and needing to defer to cargo, is considered “subsidizing” Amtrak. Fixing the roads is… oh, never mind, we don’t do that either.

And trains have inspired some of the finest music in the world. Here’s a list of 1000 songs. It’s MISSING at least two songs, both of which I own. One is Northern Bound Train by Pete Droge, which I’ve seen him perform. The other is Ridin’ the Rails by k.d. lang and Take 6, from the soundtrack to the movie Dick Tracy, a movie I’ve never seen.

Here are just a handful of my favorite train songs. Links to all.

500 Miles – Peter, Paul, and Mary
8:05 – Moby Grape
Big Train (from Memphis) – Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins

Casey Jones -Grateful Dead
Chattanooga Choo Choo – Glenn Miller
City of New Orleans – Steve Goodman

Engine Engine #9 – Roger Miller
Friendship Train – The Temptations
Hobo’s Lullabye – Emmylou Harris

Love Train -The O’Jays
Midnight Train to Georgia – Gladys Knight & The Pips
Northern Bound Train – Pete Droge

Ridin’ the Rails – k.d. lang and Take 6
Rock Island Line – Lead Belly

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